Quick: can you remember where you stored your passport? With international travel inching steadily closer, it’s time to dust off the suitcase, get your documents in order and start planning some adventures. Here are the countries most likely to be on our travel horizons soon, and why we can’t wait to get back.
What are the chances: Given we already enjoyed a brief travel bubble with New Zealand (currently suspended), this will probably be the first destination to (re)open its borders to Australians.
We can’t wait for: Auckland’s dining scene has been booming throughout lockdown, with some of New Zealand’s top chefs opening new restaurants. We are excited to test drive Michael Meredith’s Mr Morris, Ben Bayley’s Ahi Bistro, and Josh Emmett’s The Onslow, where the old-school service includes cheese and dessert trolleys. Also on our wish list: diving at the Poor Knight Islands in Northland, named as one of the world’s top 10 dive sites by Jacques Cousteau.
Suite dreams: Built at a cost of NZ$20 million, the Rua Moana – a four-cabin 34-metre catamaran – achieves its goal of being New Zealand’s premier superyacht, and is the perfect way to explore the Bay of Islands or the Coromandel Peninsula.
What are the chances: Singapore has already introduced quarantine-free travel with countries including Germany and Brunei; talks with the Australian government are underway.
We can’t wait for: Browsing through the boutiques of Kampong Glam, relaxing into a foot massage in Chinatown, tucking into designer cocktails on Keong Saik Road or feasting on street food at Satay Street – oh Singapore, we’ve missed you! The city’s urban buzz is alluring, but we are also looking revisiting some of its surprisingly green experiences such as the Southern Ridges, the 10km trail from Mount Faber to Kent Ridge Park that winds its way through no fewer than five parks.
Suite dreams: Tucked into a trio of old riverside godowns, The Warehouse is a haven for design fans, who will appreciate the clever industrial chic details and artisan pieces by local makers. Our favourite elements include the buzzy Po restaurant and the pink-tiled cantilevered pool on the roof.
What are the chances: Vanuatu’s outstanding management of the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring lengthy hotel quarantine (up to 28 days for overseas visitors) and contact tracing means it is likely to be the first South Pacific country to welcome back Australians. The island nation has recorded just three COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
We can’t wait for: If all you want to do is relax, Vanuatu’s white sand beaches are waiting. But there is so much more to do in this beautiful island nation, including the blue holes of Espiritu Santu, karst-formation springs up to 30 metres deep that glow in otherworldly shades of blue. Our favourite excursion is visiting Tanna island’s live volcano, Mount Yasur – one of the few places in the world where you can stand on the rim of a volcano and watch as molten rock is flung high in the air.
Suite dreams: You don’t have to go far for pampering: just half an hour from Port Vila, the adults-only resort The Havannah offers an array of tempting villas. Our pick: the deluxe waterfront villas that come complete with seven-metre infinity pools.
What are the chances: For a while there, the US looked like the last place you would want to travel post-COVID. A surprisingly efficient vaccine rollout changed that equation, although parts of the country still have a largely unvaccinated population.
We can’t wait for: New York City’s glorious reopening. Australians who tuned in to the recent US Open tennis championship have noted the crowds and lively atmosphere returning to the city that never sleeps. The big news in the Big Apple is a brand-new park floating on the Hudson River. Built at a cost of US$260 million, Little Island has an eye-catching design – it looks like a bunch of tulips – and an amphitheatre that offers glorious sunset views.
Suite dreams: Looking for a calm spot to rest in the city that never sleeps? Early next year wellness-focused brand Six Senses opens its first urban spa retreat in West Chelsea.
What are the chances: Japan appeared to be coping relatively well at the start of the pandemic but, like many countries, the Delta variant has thrown up new challenges, necessitating a crowd-free Olympics in July. Prime minister Yoshihide Suga recently resigned over his handling of the pandemic but with the majority of the population expected to be vaccinated by years’ end, international travel may be back on the cards.
We can’t wait for: As much as we love Tokyo, it’s Japan’s natural beauty that is really calling to us. The subtropical islands of Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima and Iriomote this year scored a World Heritage listing in recognition of their unique flora and fauna. We are looking forward to exploring the islands’ coral reefs and rainforests, as well as the white sand beaches and traditional villages.
Suite dreams: Head to Ikuchijima island on the Seto Inland Sea to experience one of Japan’s most seductive new hotels. Created by Aman Resorts’ founder Adrian Zecha, Azumi Setoda offers a modern take on the traditional ryokan, with each room equipped with a hinoki cypress wooden bathtub.
What are the chances: Canada had a rough time during the pandemic, but its vaccination rate is climbing rapidly – with three-quarters of its population at least partially vaccinated.
We can’t wait for: The lush forests and wide-open spaces of British Columbia. Head to Vancouver Island for old-growth forests and to meet the First Nations such as the Esquimalt, Songhees, and Saanich people. Depending on the season, you can also go whale watching or head out for a little grizzly watching.
Suite dreams: Accessible only by seaplane, Clayoquot Wilderness Reserve offers a forest adventure with a healthy side serve of luxury. Spend your days canyoning or fly fishing in spectacular surrounds, before retiring to your luxury tent.
What are the chances: England followed its disastrous first year of the pandemic with a super-successful vaccine rollout, which is why it is likely to be one of the first places we head back to.
We can’t wait for: Yes, London is calling – but for those who want to look further afield, Cornwall beckons. Take the Night Riviera Sleeper from London to visit the Eden Project, home to the world’s largest indoor rainforest, the pretty town of St Ives, and the magnificent Lost Gardens of Heligan, as well as acclaimed vineyards like Polgoon and Camel Valley. Feast on fresh local seafood at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw.
Suite dreams: At the brand-new The Dilly in Piccadilly, old-school touches like gilded ceiling blends with contemporary features. We also love the breakfast terrace and the Michelin-starred restaurant, The Greenhouse.